01 September 2009
Bridge partners: Little and Large
On 3 October, the world’s longest pedestrian-and-cyclists-only bridge (as it’s claimed) will open sixty or so miles north from New York City. The Poughkeepsie Highland Railroad Bridge (right) is a century-old goods-train line that crosses the Hudson River. It closed in the 1970s, but has been restored with privately raised money. The 2km-long crossing will join up cycle trails on either side, and promises one of the world’s most adrenalin-making pedalled experiences. Especially when you get halfway across 65m above the water and realise how rusty it looks.
Not as good as the Humber Bridge, which I’m always banging on about, obviously. But still one to add to my ‘future projects’ folder, perhaps in conjunction with a ride along NYC’s Manhattan Greenway as part of an ambitious US-based cycle trip. One which I’ll never do and will end up going to Belgium for a camping weekend instead, and it’ll rain.
But I did manage another quirky, historic, restored bridge yesterday, one that’s effectively only open to pedestrians and cyclists. (Cars can in theory use it, except there’s no road on the other side, only a dirt track.)
Horkstow Bridge (other pics), just 20 minutes’ bike ride south into Lincolnshire from the Humber Bridge, is one of Britain’s oldest surviving suspension bridges, dating from 1836. It's also John Rennie’s only suspension bridge, and without doubt the world’s most elegant bridge built solely to transport bricks across a canal. Men of punier aesthetic ambitions than Rennie would have just thrown them over.
Much of Horkstow Bridge’s charm is because it’s on the end of a remote country lane in a back-of-the-sofa part of England, on the end of a cul-de-sac. Which is an odd place for a bridge. A kind of pocket-sized Clifton Suspension Bridge, it’s only 133 feet long, 14 feet wide and 36 feet above the river, so the Hudson’s monster (6,700 feet long, 35 feet wide, 212 feet above the water) does rather dwarf it.
But as yet another little-England curio, best visited by bike (too far and boring to walk, too trivial to drive, but just right as a bike trip from the Humber Bridge) it’s rather fun. And you don't have to worry about pronouncing 'Poughkeepsie'.